Canned fish is having a moment! Here’s a quick spaghetti and pilchard meatballs recipe for hectic weeknights

Spaghetti and pilchard meatballs. Picture: Supplied

Spaghetti and pilchard meatballs. Picture: Supplied

Published Feb 29, 2024


If you have spent any time on foodie TikTok or Instagram feeds lately, you are probably well aware that canned fish is having a major moment right now. These funky and fragrant bites are now found in restaurants all over the world.

Chefs and foodies have hopped onto the trend and are creating lovely dishes where tinned fish is the star of the meal.

They have discovered the joys of canned fish and popular influencers are posting taste tests and recipes with sardines, anchovies and upscale tuna.

But what is there not to love about this great pantry staple typically used in sandwiches and casseroles?

Canned fish is a nutritional powerhouse. For starters, it offers a highly portable source of protein that you can take with you on the go.

Oilier varieties, such as sardines and salmon, are high in omega-3s. In fact, canned salmon, sardines, anchovies, mackerel, herring, crab, and clams are among the highest sources of omega-3s in the grocery store according to Seafood Nutrition Partnership.

If you are looking for a unique dish that uses canned fish, this quick spaghetti and pilchard meatballs recipe will help you when you are having a hectic weeknight.

Spaghetti and pilchard meatballs. Picture: Supplied

Spaghetti and pilchard meatballs

Serves: 4



2 cans of 400g Lucky Star pilchards in tomato sauce

2 eggs

250ml breadcrumbs

Salt and pepper to taste

Fresh basil to garnish (optional)

Parmesan shavings to garnish (optional)


30ml olive oil

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

300g spaghetti

2 garlic cloves, crushed

410g whole tomatoes in sauce

Pinch of salt



Preheat the oven to 180ºC.

Remove only the pilchards from the can, reserving the tomato sauce, and place them into a bowl.

Debone and flake. Combine with remaining pilchard meatball ingredients and mash with a fork.

Roll a tablespoon of mixture into small meatballs with your hands.

Chef’s tip: Use a little oil on your hands to prevent sticking.

Repeat with the remaining mixture.

Place fish meatballs on a baking tray and refrigerate for about 10 minutes.

Take the fish meatballs out of the fridge and bake them in the oven for 10 – 15 minutes until golden and cooked.


While the meatballs chill, start the tomato sauce. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large pan.

Cook the onions and garlic until they soften, about 5 minutes.

Add the tin of tomatoes and the reserved tomato sauce.

Season with salt and pepper and simmer for 10 – 15 minutes on low heat.

To assemble

Cook the spaghetti as per pack instructions.

Toss in the tomato sauce and serve with the fish meatballs on top

Garnish with fresh basil leaves and Parmesan shavings (if you are using them) and enjoy.